Not rated, but if you want to watch one of the cringiest injuries I've ever seen, come on down. I mean, I didn't think I was squeamish, but geeeeeeezzzz. There's probably some language. There's definitely some sexual harassment. Now I'm getting into nitty gritty, but the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling wrestled in spandex. Take from that what you will. Not rated.
DIRECTOR: Brett Whitcomb
We watched the Netflix show! I had to know the real story. Okay, I never liked wrestling. I know that I was the target market for wrestling at the height of wrestling fever. But no, I never got into wrestling. Why am I apologizing? Always like what you like. Unless it's bad for your soul. In that case, cut it out! Regardless, I was curious where all this stuff came from. I can't believe how much the Netflix show used. While not necessarily a biopic version of these ladies' lives, it really used the broad template for all of this. It was really a rad experience.
GLOW is not necessarily the best documentary in the world, but it is way better than it has any right to be. From a technical perspective, it looks pretty chincy. It has real production value stuff. It almost at times feels like a special feature off of a DVD. I think I want to shake the filmmakers and ask them to just go safer with their choices. I'm going down a criticism spiral right now and I'm not necessarily going to stop it because I have some things to say about this. The filmmakers are obviously fans. This is one of those For the Love of Spock situations. This is a movie made by fans for the fans. There's no way that the movie really tries to be objective about anything. For them, it is not exactly the time to be hard-hitting and finding the root of what makes these people tick. But in the context of all of these criticisms, the movie is actually completely riveting. You would think it would be hard to watch a fan video for something that you aren't really a fan of. But GLOW is just informative enough to keep people informed. I think a lot of that comes from its subject matter. From what I understand about wrestling, there's this world that thrives when it comes to people who completely believe what they are seeing. Because they want to believe, there is no need to know the reality of what is going on. If Mt. Fuji hits Little Egypt, then there's probably a beef behind it. I don't think any of the people who believe this are dumb. Their logical brain knows what is going on in reality, but that kind of takes away the magic of the entire situation. I get that. I get that in spades. It's that faith of a child that I desperately want. But because of that belief and the fact that a lot of time has passed since the original GLOW program was on the air, the movie does a really good job explaining what really was going on. For me, an outsider, it's perfect. It gave me an understanding of the cultural context for all of these situations. I got to see what people really liked about GLOW without really removing all of the blemishes of the story.
But the movie is both uplifting and tragic. I don't think I was really ready for that. Like the Netflix program, the story was built out of exploitation. These were women who wanted to be on television. They were actresses who were having a hard time finding work. In the process, they were yelled at and emotionally tortured. I'm never going to advocate for any kind of emotional torture. The director, whose name is escaping me right now, doesn't appear in the film outside of a few shots at a reunion. He doesn't participate in any interviews and he makes himself scarce. But for all the garbage he put these women through, they all love him. Maybe not all love him, but there are a few who absolutely adore him. Because GLOW wasn't supposed to be amazing, it kind of became the story of the underdog. GLOW was The Little Engine That Could. It gained an intense fanbase when no one was really supposed to be watching it. Honestly, there's something really interesting to see just the right amount of fandom affect some people. The wrestlers became famous in their own right. They had really intense fans. But they weren't exactly famous everywhere. I'm actually surprised by how much attention they did end up receiving. But that's another story. But they were both exalted and humbled. Through the process of emotional abuse, a rise in celebrity (but in a tempered way), they ended up all becoming like sisters. These were shoestring budgets, bad jokes, ridiculous outfits, and little-to-no training. But because of the absurd lifestyle that they were all living, they bonded really hard. They had the time of their lives. Mind you, only a handful of women actually participated in the interview process, but they all speak lovingly about their time at GLOW.
This leads to the story of Mountain Fuji. I really want to call her Machu Picchu. It's pretty obvious which characters really stand in for each other. Mountain Fuji, whose name I don't think is ever said (because they all go by their wrestling monikers throughout the text) only really found acceptance through the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling. Mountain Fuji, as pictured above, was significantly larger than her wrestling co-stars. Considering that there were women on the show who could easily segue into modeling careers, Mountain Fuji was the one who found actual celebrity on the show. She was the hero of the show. You would think that the American themed one would be the hero of the show. But people piled into see Mountain Fuji take down the competition. This humble woman who was able to throw people around like trash gained an actual fanbase. And the best thing about it all was that she was the nicest person in the world. She was friends with everyone. People cry when they think about their time with Mountain Fuji. I told you that this story was heartwarming, but also a bummer, right? Mountain Fuji is bound to a wheelchair today. She's in an assisted living center today and the most accomplished thing she has ever done was to be on GLOW. The film has a large section of the documentary devoted to Mountain Fuji. She's not in the first half. I think the movie saves her for a big reveal because it is so striking how different her life is now. But honest-to-Pete, she might actually still be the nicest lady living. She is confined to this chair, but she is this humble, humble, humble woman. She prays for those people from her past. She's embarrassed to see them because she can't walk anymore. She confesses that she had the biggest crush on the director of the show...and then proceeds to tell him to his face at the reunion. It's some emotional stuff, guys. I don't know if I was quite ready to handle that in a documentary about women's wrestling, especially considering that I don't like any kind of wrestling.
I want to recommend this to everyone, but I also know that I'm a weird person who watches too many movies and am willing to give chances to things that don't necessarily apply to everyone. The movie is very cheap looking at times. Mirroring the content it is discussing, the documentary almost feels unfinished at times. Considering that only a fraction of the cast is involved in the documentary, I have to wonder what went into making this movie. Did one contact call another contact? Was there really a push to make this thing perfect? Like I said, the movie is better than it has any right to be, but that doesn't mean it necessarily is for everyone. I appreciated that the movie had heart. There was a documentary two years ago, Icarus. I'm not saying that GLOW is on the quality of Icarus. Icarus is an incredible documentary that was made very well. But they do kind of share something in common. I don't think that the people who made the GLOW documentary knew what they had on their hands when they made it. They knew that they had a fan video. They knew that they were going to get interviews from people that would really work the nostalgia angle for a select few. But finding out that the central foundation of the piece would be everyone's love for Mountain Fuji brings the movie to an emotionally resonant place. This kind of inspires the reunion. I adored the reunion. It's such a small moment in the movie and it isn't part of the plan. But it also shows that people actually loved what they did. It is mind-blowing that GLOW led to people getting involved in the film business. I don't think that there are a ton of real success stories. But the movie might be a tale about the old adage, "Do what you love and you never work a day in your life." This seems to have been made under the worst conditions, but people can't speak more highly of the whole thing. That's pretty rad. I really liked that a lot.
The film is a good time. It isn't going to blow your mind. But if you are open to it, it might affect your heart a little bit. I love that I got emotionally moved in a documentary about women's wrestling in the '80s. I can put that on a resume.
R, for general lewdness and offensiveness. It's a raunchy comedy, full of swearing and sexual innuendo. One of the women brings everyone sex toys. One of the characters consents to casual sex. While there is no nudity on screen, it does feel pretty skeezy at times. R.
DIRECTOR: Amy Poehler
I wanted to impress my wife, guys. I think I did too. It was low-key date night. We weren't going out, but I made a pretty solid dinner. We were both tired, so we put on Netflix, and low-and-behold! A comedy starring a whole bunch of ladies that we liked. Yeah, we watched it and, you know what? We enjoyed the heck out of it. One of my students watched it with her mom and my student didn't really care for it. I think I know why. This is a comedy for old people who just started being older.
If you like any of these actresses, you are in for a treat. Emily Spivey kind of fell on our radar with her work on Last Man on Earth and Up All Night. I've been a huge fan of Poehler since her UCB days (the television show. It's not like I'm hanging out in New York and catching underground shows). Maya Rudolph might be one of my favorite guest castings on any show. I know Paula Pell from something, but I don't know what. (I literally have an IMDB tab right next to this and I refuse to click because it will slow down the momentum I'm building up.) Ana Gasteyer has been missing in action lately, so it's good to see her in something that showcases how funny she is. And I'm going to say it: I think that Rachel Dratch is friends with everyone and finally gets a role where she's not playing a bit part. This combination of people is what I want out of a movie. It's actually completely shocking that all of these people aren't working together constantly because there's this chemistry that they have that makes you feel like you are hanging out with this group of old friends. There are moments in the film that might feel a little bit artificial, like "No one REALLY does that." But the charisma of the cast and the chemistry of the whole thing make these moments seem plausible. It's a lot of talent that can be found in Wine Country and I really adore when this kind of synergy happens. I'm not saying that these women can do anything and it would be gold, but I'm also really willing to watch and assume that it will be gold. Great comedies are hard to pull off. While Wine Country won't ever be at the top of my list, it does show that the Netflix model has real legs. Wine Country made me laugh harder than most of the stuff that I've been seeing lately. But this kind of brings me back to what my student said. She didn't care for it, but she thinks that her mom did. Raunchy comedies tend to aim themselves at a lucrative target market. I think most of the good stuff is probably aimed at the 18-25 share because tickets mean revenue. While twenty-somethings probably adore Netflix, it is also really appealing to an older audience. Most of the material aimed at an older market seems to be some lowest common denominator stuff. It tends to be fairly innocuous, picking at the low-hanging fruit. Parents can bring their kids to the movies and everyone can have a good time. But with Netflix being a fairly private viewing platform, I'm kind of glad to see something about aging being made.
The film is about turning 50. It's not just that, but I think that's a pretty central foundation to build it upon. The different women, all friends from long ago, have different problems that tend to remind them of harshness of the real world. Medical tests can mean not only fearing for one's own life, but how a family is going to function. Success has its stress. Failure has its stress. Sometimes, our bodies just hurt. Some of us have meaningful relationships. Some of us see no chance of coupling with others. Yeah, it's a big cast, but there's not a lot of overlap between the characters. All of these women have had different, yet challenging lives. It's hard to pinpoint who the central character is because of this. I want to default and give it to Amy Poehler's Abby. Poehler directed the film and Abby is pretty central to the events of the story. She was the one who organized the vacation. She's also the first one to really break down when things go slightly wrong. But Poehler isn't simply directing a single character arc. This is an ensemble film. The only one of the cast who really isn't fully developed is Emily Spivey's Jenny. There are things that are said about Jenny that don't really call back to any specific character stuff that we see. By the end of the film, I get the bare bones of Jenny's character, but nothing that would really elicit an emotional reaction or a personal attachment. The two characters I really latched onto were Rachel Dratch's Rebecca and Ana Gasteyer's Catherine. (I laughed most at Paula Pell's Val, but her arc was a little less nuanced than the rest of the characters.) Rebecca's fear of aging is a fun throughline for the whole story. She is constantly vocalizing how this party isn't for her birthday. I think I know too many people who hate having the attention on themselves. But Rebecca's comments on avoiding her birthday is the central theme throughout the story. Rebecca's physical collapse reflecting her emotional understanding of what it means to age is the focus of the story. All the characters are dealing with it in some way. Rebecca is just the only one who really doesn't understand that. I know, it's a bit tropey to have the therapist be the one in most denial. But it is her breakthrough that lets the story progress. They are in a dark place, supernatural or otherwise. It is upon her realization that this even is about her turning 50 that allows the resolution to begin. Just because one doesn't acknowledge a problem doesn't mean that it isn't there. Maybe it isn't just about aging, by that logic. Perhaps the entire piece is about denial.
The entire group is based on one time in these people's lives. They all worked at the same pizza place. All from different backgrounds and different philosophies, the characters in this movie hold the pizza place as something sacred. Everything on this trip, despite being in a completely different locale, is an attempt to make the past new again. (I'm sorry, Gatsby fans.) The harder they try to latch on to this one moment in time, the more it seems out of their grasps. The most impressive moment, at perhaps the most Leslie Knope moment, is when Abby recreates the pizza parlor in the middle of Napa Valley. Now, here's me. I wasn't even part of this group, despite the fact that I just claimed that I was. I look at this pizza parlor and I'm impressed. Even the characters seem impressed by what they are looking at. But it is at this moment that the character lose their minds. This is when all of the conflicts come to a head. Sure, there's tension before this moment. But the screaming and the accusations happen. I told you that I liked Ana Gasteyer's Catherine. Her character has probably the most moral ambiguity. I relate. Yeah, I'm not the workaholic that Catherine is. (Mind you, I assign myself an essay a day, so I can't be the healthiest when it comes to work). But she has a complex storyline. She loves working. It's not something that takes her away from happiness. It is her happiness. But she also has the vibe that no one wants to hang out with her. She is her own monster. Because she works so much, she thinks that people don't want to hang out with her. Because no one is hanging out with her, she gets more work in. The truth of the matter is that people do want to hang out with her, but she has removed herself from the situation. See, it's not necessarily just about aging. It's more of the denial that comes with life. I am convinced that people don't want to hang out with me. Like most people, I am absolutely certain that I'm the main character in everybody's life. When I'm not, I get really depressed. I get this movie. Geez, do I get this movie.
But is this movie deep? I tend to dig into the subtext of a piece. After all, I write all the words about every movie. I don't want to dismiss this as a dumb comedy. I honestly think that Wine Country is a movie with something to say. I get the idea that Poehler and her team have a very distinct message and crisis that they are addressing. But the movie handles it in a fun way. There's some absolutely absurd, almost inside jokes at times in the movie. But again, the movie has a way of welcoming in its audience. It provides a door to experience the in-jokes without pushing the nostalgia button too hard. And I keep circling back to my student. She didn't see much in this movie. Maybe she's right. But I also think that a lot of this movie is based on life experience and different forms of insecurities. Maybe the insecurities and self-esteem issues of adolescence don't really go away. Maybe they just transform into a state that we get used to. I don't think I woke up one day and was just convinced that life made sense. Wine Country is a reminder of the little things that really get under our skin everyday. As adults, I think we have a really hard time talking about things that really bother us. Today, I just indulged in carbs. It's what I did. I know that sounds like nothing, but that was a big deal for me. By typing this sentence, I remind myself of the constant privilege I'm afforded to write a sentence like that. The second we have things figured out and we abandon that arrested development of adolescence, our problems seem to exclusively become our problems. We expect our friends to be able to fix everything like they used to. But our friends, back in high school, had very similar problems to us. We now all have different baggage. I don't understand the baggage of my friends anymore. I have the luxury of standing back and seeing all of their solutions. But I also have a hard time kicking myself in the butt and figuring out how to deal with my emotional minefield at the same time. I know that this isn't something new, but I appreciate Poehler and her crew saying it in film. I like that. We all have our own junk and we should try to own it. Sure, I don't think I would make the same choices that the characters did. I am a very different person. But that's part of the story. The first step might just be acknowledging it.
We were honored to interview civil rights activist and CNN contributor Van Jones about his new show The Redemption Project with Van Jones. Catch it on CNN Sundays at 9:00 pm or on CNNgo.
Rated PG. This is one of those, "what is going on" versus "what you actually see" situations. There is almost no objectionable visual things with the exception of the last two minutes. Those last two minutes show very brief violence. But the movie itself is about infidelity, murder, and revenge. I tend not to show a PG audience a film about infidelity, murder, and revenge.
DIRECTOR: Joseph L. Mankiewicz
It's so satisfying when you finally see a movie that you've been trying to see for a while. Sleuth is in one of my books. I don't know what it is with me and lists. It's the completionist in me. I have to have said that I've seen every movie is said book. But Sleuth was out of print. It still is out of print. I finally just found a copy that I could watch and that brought me all the joy I thought it would. The movie will never hit my top film list, but it dings a lot of the right boxes along the way.
I actually watched the film with prescriptive subtitles. Let me tell you: If you want to have a good time, watch a film with Michael Caine while a computer is trying to figure out what he's trying to say. It's a good time. I don't know why these movies make me happy, but I tend to like stage plays that are adapted to film. I think if I actually saw Sleuth as a stage play, I would be rolling my eyes for the most part. But thrillers like Sleuth and Rope have the foundations to make absolutely amazing stories while keeping a story intimate and tight. I adore that Sleuth didn't cheat when it came to film conventions. Okay, it cheats a little bit. The characters leave the one room a couple of times and they go outside. All right. Let's pull back a little bit. But the script seems to be exactly the same as the stage production. The only cast is Lawrence Olivier and Michael Caine. That's pretty rad. It actually creates a weird situation at one point, though. There's a meta narrative running in the back of the audience's head while watching the film. Okay, that meta narrative was running through my head for the length of the film. You can smell the act break when it happens. I mentally thought of the curtain falling and the scene being reset by the crew. At one point, it looks like Andrew has killed Milo. Milo's fate is left in the air and the police have to investigate his disappearance. Because the conceit is that only Lawrence Olivier and Michael Caine are the cast, there's a weird moment where we have Police Inspector Doppler appear, played by Michael Caine. This leaves this weird tangential story that is happening. 1) We have to believe that Andrew doesn't recognize Milo and that Michael Caine's big reveal is meant to be a surprise. This is the true result of the mystery. The alternative is that, 2) we recognize that Michael Caine is Doppler, but he really is Doppler. Sleuth isn't the first film where one actor has played multiple parts. Heck, the English have a history of that with Kind Hearts and Coronets. I don't know why this doesn't put me off. I should be livid about the fact that Caine's reveal is never actually shocking. Michael Caine has a very specific voice, even when he's doing a voice. It's such a bizarre casting choice considering that Caine is one of the more impersonate-able people in the world. But it works.
There's something Hitchcockian about Sleuth. I was thinking about Rope and how Sleuth almost out-Ropes Rope. Yeah, it doesn't really have the real time gimmick that Hitchcock uses in Rope, but it does something that Hitch was great at. It sets the tone against the content of the film. Instead of going dark and bleak when it comes to a story about murder, Sleuth is actually quite a playful and fun film. There are scenes that are impressively bleak and upsetting. Milo ripping apart Andrew at the end is a staggering piece of acting. But at no point did I watch this movie and think that the film was trying to depress me or intimidate me. Rather, it definitely reminds me of a magic trick. I mean, listen to the score and tell me what kind of tone this movie has. The movie acknowledges that this is a play. It is all a facade. The set builds upon this. Mankiewicz makes everything somehow superficial. I haven't seen the remake, but I really get the vibe that the remake didn't go in this direction. Instead, the film is surrounded by marionettes. Andrew is obsessed with puzzles. While the props in the film are often a bit dated, they do scream of scene decoration. The fakeness of the smiles mirror Andrew's confidence / false confidence. I think that's probably why we root for Milo for the majority of the film. Andrew is fairly unlikable. He's racist. He's obsessed with his own superiority. When the tables are turned on Andrew, we never really have that moment of sympathy for him, even when Milo takes it too far. But he's the creepy laughing clown. His smile is always false. Yes, he enjoys torturing Milo, but that's a very different part of him than the smile we see. I normally don't lose my mind over Lawrence Olivier. I know that he's one of the greats, but his performance style is from a by-gone era. He's great in this. I kind of get it. Andrew is very publicly one thing and secretly something else. Yet, the character kind of does a terrible job of hiding his hubris. Andrew is a phenomenal character and I kind of get why people lose their minds over Lawrence Olivier's acting.
But I do kind of want to look at Milo as the protagonist. Andrew has been wronged by Milo. But because Andrew is a character who enjoys the revenge more than the act of being wronged, he instantly becomes the villain. The odd thing is that Andrew actually has this weird morality behind him. He convinces Milo that he has been shot. Milo, instead of counting his lucky stars that he wasn't killed and that it was all a trick, sees this as the ultimate humiliation. But from Andrew's perspective, he sees murder as both too low for his station and too far of a revenge. He's actually kind of merciful. He's not absolved from his quest for revenge, but it is strange the Milo feels the need to completely destroy Andrew. I suppose this leads to Milo's ultimate demise. Somehow, and I'm just realizing this now, Milo becomes Andrew. The hero becomes the villain and the villain just stays a villain. The story becomes about two villains. This also leads me down the alley of wondering whether or not the two actually ever become friends. A lot of this movie is about the two playing with each other. It's cat and mouse and a lot of watching out for traps, but there are moments where the two seem to be having a good time. Most of that comes from the actors' chemistry. Milo, who is at no point free of responsibility for the events of the story, has the moral high ground over Andrew, who has abandoned it from moment one in the story. If none of the events of the film happen, then Andrew has the upper hand. But it is fun to see how quickly Milo abandons any sense of ethics. He's willing to go along with Andrew in his scheme. I think we've had a deluge of films that have complicated plots that shouldn't work. Why I forgive Sleuth is that Andrew is ready for this not to work. Milo has so many opportunities to foil this plot. He could say "no" at any time and walk away. But he goes along with it. He sells his soul for an odd need for acceptance. It makes the story interesting and very cool.
Geez, I don't think I've ever wanted to rewatch a movie so quickly. As I write about this, I kind of want to show my wife this movie. It's really good. I mean, it's really really good. I had a fun time with it. Yeah, it does come across as a little dated sometimes. But that's also part of the charm of the movie. It's a really smart movie that shows its wear a little bit. Regardless, I definitely recommend finding a copy of it somewhere. It's a good time.
R...for being one of the most annoyingly anti-Catholic films I've ever seen. I watched this and just thought, "Boy, it's been so long since I've been able to rip apart a movie that hard." It's got language. It's got adultery. Under the guise of being a progressive film, it has a remarkably regressive view of women. It advocates abortion and infidelity. There's sexuality, but no nudity. Big R.
DIRECTOR: Edward Burns
Hi. This is what a dumpster fire looks like. If you have any doubt about my feelings on this movie, don't. It's safely one of the worst films I've seen in a while. I have the exact reason why I hate this movie. It's going to blow your mind, hopefully. It was the epiphany that I needed to get through the film. "But Tim, why did you even watch this movie to begin with?" I heard the title before, but that's about as much as I knew about this movie. I'm not Irish. It doesn't really seem like my kind of movie. The explanation for me watching this movie is that I actually own it. For my birthday, I got the Fox Searchlight 20th Anniversary box set from my wife. I'm still in awe of this box set. But the first movie in the box was, you guessed it, The Brothers McMullen.
Are you ready to hear my great epiphany about why this movie is no bueno? Do you know how you sometimes recognize Christian Rock, despite being kind of generic? Do you know how this kind of applies to Christian films? I'm not talking about films with Christian themes or a theme that could apply to something that speaks to your faith. I'm talking about the movies that are specifically made for the Christian audiences. This is that movie for the anti-Catholic crowd. This movie tries to dunk so hard on Catholicism that it just embarrasses itself. Now, I have never been able to get very deep into Christian movies. I find them kind of cringeworthy. I know that a lot of people like them and I encourage people to keep liking them. Don't let me change your mind on these things. But when I watch these movies, they are sledgehammers when it comes to theme and messages. The best one I saw was Bella, mainly because the movie encourages us to invest in the characters in the story before dropping heavy message. Edward Burns doesn't pull that card out. I know that the '90s were a very specific time for independent film. Richard Linklater kind of changed the game for what is expected in a film. Often, those '90s indies were almost like stage plays that dependent on witty repartee between a bunch of people sitting around while smoking and/or drinking. They often had an edgy quality, saying the things that other, big budget films were afraid to say. The mentality was to model conversations around what people really talked about. The effect wasn't quite that. If anything, characters would try to out-wit each other. (Not "outwit", but "out-wit"). Edward Burns, screenwriter, director, and actor of this movie, was using the template. Scenes mostly involve people talking about things that show how wise they are. But I think Linklater gets something that Burns never did. Having people talk for the entire film in witty discussion means that all of their subtext is kind of exposed. Burns' characters, in particular his own, say everything that they are thinking at all times.
Here's me playing Devil's Advocate with a movie that has truly despicable politics. Let's imagine that I really wanted to slam the Catholic church. Let's say my goal was to have people leave in droves. What I wouldn't do was say my problems with the Catholic church at all. Instead, what I would do is mirror real problems that people had with the Church. Instead of saying that they are evil and outdated, I would show a church that keeps trying to do the right thing and failing. I would show the hopelessness of the church. I would give the characters real moral conundrums. What I wouldn't do is what this film does. Like many of the Christian films I've seen, The Brothers McMullen creates caricatures of these people. Marty's understanding of his faith is laughable. Okay, I know what Burns would say. He'd be talking about the difference between Catholic and Irish Catholic. A lot of the film is about those people who are culturally Catholic. But between Jack and Marty, they have no idea about some real Catholicism 101. I'm talking about stuff like "What is a sin?" No one says, "Don't do that. It's a sin." No one over the age of nine says that. "How bad of a sin is adultery?" Come on. Let's not pretend that this is reality. Also, Marty is remarkably inept at arguing his faith. At one point, everyone refers to him as the faithful one of the family. If he is a practicing, but fallen Catholic, how doesn't he know anything about what constitutes basic morality? I almost get how Finbar and Jack could know so little about faith, but Marty claims to know all about faith at times. He talks about it not as a dodge, but as his central argument about why Jack shouldn't cheat on his wife. A lot of the movie is that Burns doesn't understand Catholic characters at all because he doesn't want to. He doesn't want to make him a real character. Christian films often do the same thing. There's almost a mustache-twirling element to the characters that don't align with ideology. Marty is practically tumbling over his own laces in this film.
I can see 1995 applauding the female characters in this film as so progressive. Marty, the hardcore Catholic, abandons his faith for someone who actually advertises herself as pro-choice and anti-Catholic. That's how she re-introduces herself to the character. It's this heavy conversation and she has no scruples about saying that. It's fine. But even worse, either the women are saints or their evil monsters. Jack, the married one who loves his wife, is seduced a woman. That doesn't make her evil. What makes her evil is that she traps him. She is after him because he's married. She stalks him and corners him. What can Jack do? This evil woman tricked him. Come on. We're better than this. Like Marty, Ann is this two dimensional character that has no sense of dimension to her. She's so over-the-top evil that the relationship doesn't feel real. I get that Jack cheats on his wife. But she mind as well be surrounded by black smoke and cackle every time that she gets what she wants. On the other end of the scale, there's Connie Britton's character. I thought I liked Connie Britton, but this movie definitely calls that into question. Connie Britton plays Molly, Jack's wife. Molly is the absolutely perfect wife. She wants children. She is a teacher. Everyone in the family likes her. She's the puppy that is being crushed in this scenario. Characters aren't allowed to play emotions. Molly's name should be "Faithul housewife" because that's all that she is in the story. She finds Jack's condoms and knows that he cheated. But instead of actually doing anything to actually repair their relationship, they have a low energy, respectful argument and everything is settled. The next time we see them together, they are kissing like nothing had ever happened. It is convenient for the story to have Molly forgive Jack, so everything is forgiven. It's really rough. Finally, there's the female lead in the film. Characters are totally allowed to lie about their intentions. I actually think that this might be the strongest element of Leslie. But she uses the same lie twice on the same person. Okay, it's a variation. But why does Burns write her that way. When she confesses to the first lie, that brings her a sense of vulnerability. But then she lies again. It actually kind of makes her wishy-washy. We have a character that is lying, despite the fact that lying isn't her defining trait, and a character who speaks everything on his mind. It makes for really boring conversation. She says that she is going to leave, but instantly sees the smallest effort and goes back to him. What? It's so degrading.
I don't know if I actually covered this, but the movie actually is just the worst. I know that everything I've written seems to support that arguement, but this movie isn't very good. I read that it was made for only $9,000, but...why? Edward Burns is kind of a real actor. Connie Britton is kind of a real actor. The movie ends (and I could not stop giggling) with Sarah MacLaughlin's "I Will Remember You." Someone had money. Why make this movie look so cheap? Also, a lot of this film really rests on bad choices, not cheap choices. I have seen really well made cheap movies. But the script is abysmal. I mean, it's artificial as heck. The deliveries are just mind-numbingly awful. I know that we're looking at the era of film, so there were probably a lot of one-take scenes. But that doesn't mean that these scenes couldn't be rehearsed. (Okay, you have to pay actors for staying longer.) Also, the editing is really just hot trash. The movie starts off after one scene with a "Five Years Later..." title card. Why is this so poorly done? Here's how you fix that and I didn't even go to film school: Show your opening scene at the funeral. Opening credits. Film starts off with "Five Years Later" across the bottom of the establishing shot after the opening credits. That's far cleaner. Everything in this just so confident in its own genius that it's like watching a trainwreck. It has major actors doing community theatre work. I really get the vibe that anyone was afraid to critique Edward Burns because this is his baby. I used to be afraid of the writer / director / star combo, but I got over it with Clooney. I might be back to square one after The Brothers McMullen. It treats monogamy like only a moron would enjoy it. It has characters say absolutely absurd things to make the themes work. Edward Burns is so cocky with his character that he can do no wrong. Considering that he's the protagonist, I really want to punch him in his stupid face the entire movie. I'm constantly reminded the he wrote and directed this piece of garbage and that he's just defaming a religion that he doesn't subscribe to. It's trash filmmaking. Don't watch this movie. It's really bad.
Not rated. Probably the most controversial thing in the movie is a non-sexualized image of a woman's breast. It is done in an avant-garde style, so it is presented almost like a painting. The movie also makes some bold, if not cryptic, statements about Christianity. As a Catholic, these images intrigue me. But I can easily see how the imagery presented could be considered offensive because the meaning behind these images is so bizarre. Not rated.
DIRECTOR: Sergei Parajanov
Oh man, am I glad to have watched this after taking my poetry theory class. We studied the poetry of prayer for a unit and I read all kinds of stuff that made my heart sink. I tend to be kind of anti-avante-garde. I'm not proud of that. I think I'm pretty open-minded towards a lot of film, but avante-garde always asks me to take a leap too far. I mean, I didn't absolutely hate Koyaanisqatsi. I didn't love it. But I didn't hate it. But looking at The Color of Pomegranates as both a piece of ethnographic cinema and as a work of art is something that actually kind of tickled me.
I'm not going to say that I had a good time. I know me and that wasn't me having fun. But it was something that got my gears moving. The Color of Pomegranates, as I learned from the pre-film text, is actually an edited American version of a longer film. This is painfully glib, but I think I got it. I don't need to dive down that rabbit hole too much further because it all pretty much made sense on the first try. Okay, it didn't make sense. That's also something that I have to keep in mind. Parajanov does something that I haven't really seen with ethnographic film. A lot of the ethnographic, avante-garde stuff is meant to make me feel uncomfortable. I am thinking of my experience with stuff like In the Realm of the Senses or some of the work that I've seen from Werner Herzog. But Parajanov doesn't treat his subjects with contempt. Watching The Color of Pomegranates almost made me feel like a child sitting through Mass for the first time. There is a sense of holiness and something that is bigger than the congregation. It doesn't quite make sense, but there's an odd attention to ritual and the supernatural. I actually was raised Ukrainian Catholic. I went to Byzantine liturgies. I'm not Armenian, but the Eastern influences pervade the film thoroughly. I don't know if this makes my experience with The Color of Pomegranates different than my peers'. It is a film that seems both warm and cold. The actors in the film are treated almost like marionettes. Often, actors in the film are bedecked with surreal makeup and clothing and just stand there. If there is a light narrative to their scenes, the performances are either done in a cinema verite style or in an overly stylized attitude, almost like a computer mimicking what reality is like. The effect, overall, is this almost awe at what is being seen. I don't want to admit to tuning out at Mass from time-to-time. I just know that I'm not a multitasker and I'd like to apologize to God to that right now. But much of the film almost mirrors that. There were moments where I was starring at these absolutely gorgeous and surreal shots, trying to interpret what I was looking at. In the next moment, I noticed that five minutes had past. I can't say that I didn't watch it. But my consciousness almost went to another level. I simply became part of the film in these moments. I wasn't even daydreaming. Again, I don't want to admit to tuning out while driving, but there are often times that I'm shocked that I'm at work already. The Color of Pomegranates does this throughout.
I think that The Color of Pomegranates might be the most sensory movie that I've ever seen. I would love to show this film to my English class because I have a hard time taking kids to the next level when it comes to teaching imagery. From moment one, HECK, from the title, we can get that this is about imagery. I know that the original title was something else, but the film is obsessed with going in a direction when it comes to senses outside of simply being a visual film. I know it is not the only experience that the film offers, but The Color of Pomegranates is obsessed with the way that liquid affects things. The first series of shots past the opening titles is water flowing around books. The movie has about half a dozen people draining water out of books. Sure, I wish that I knew where to find such an effective rock to squeeze the water out of my waterlogged books, but that moment shook me. I don't know what it is about that image that is so universal. I know that water and liquid is central to the human experience. But there's something absolutely mesmerizing about water flow and affect the world around it. Somehow, and I'm still kind of puzzling it out, most of the senses are addressed in this almost hypnotic fashion. Two men climb into a hole in the ground. They pull themselves out. Parajanov was a poet. The entire film is actually a book of poetry. He even refers to himself as the poet and the script as poetry. If I had to encapsulate what a poem is visually and sensually, this is the movie that really does it. One of the biggest frustrations about writing poetry was trying to find grounding imagery to act as the triggering subject in my pieces. But by actually making a film, Parajanov is making the images support his words and his words support his imagery. I just ripped apart Mulholland Drive, criticizing it because I really do believe that it is weird for weird's sake. The Color of Pomegranates does what Mulholland Drive and similar Lynch pieces fail to do. Lynch often uses bizarre imagery to reach an emotion. Often, it is that traditionally ethnographic alienation that a lot of films utilize. That element of confusion mixed with disgust is what Lynch often tries to reach. But this entire film really lacks a formal narrative. There's a hint of a narrative in the background. I somewhat understand what the poet is speaking about within his childhood, but there is no formality or objectivity behind it. But Parajanov elicits a whole range of emotions when creating his film. He attacks the senses. He finds ground in paradox. There's a scene where lambs are being bled and skinned for sacrifice. After my experience with "Blood of the Beasts", I thought I could never handle a scene like this again. It really hits a lot of buttons. But there was something holy and disturbing at the same time. Similarly, Parajanov inverts the imagery. He has a funeral mass being read while the corpse and the priest are surrounded by what seem like a hundred or so sheep. The callbacks to the Bible and religious texts don't point to religion as something silly or something to be disregarded. Quite the contrary, the movie almost stands in awe of the rich culture that goes into these traditions. I don't know if The Color of Pomegranates is a celebration of religion. But what the movie does, when so few movies do, is find respect in the religion. These people are absolutely committed to their faith. Perhaps I'm simply used to profane images acting as sledgehammers when it comes to commenting on religion. But Parajanov shows some absolutely gorgeous pieces. The people embodying religious ikons don't look silly or oafish. Rather, they are as close as personifying the supernatural as one can get, especially considering that the film was made in 1969 and probably on an extreme budget. The cuts and effects, if I can even call them that, are shoestring. They aren't there to fool you. They're there to create a sense of unity of idea.
The Color of Pomegranates isn't exactly what I consider a good time. If was roaming the halls of a museum and The Color of Pomegranates was the attraction, I would probably watch it for a few minutes before moving on. But committing to watching the movie as a whole is a unique experience. It does almost seem like something holy in itself. I don't want to find out if it is actually a criticism about faith because the movie does seem so in awe of a higher power above it. I was an emotional experience. It is the feeling I am supposed to get when I appreciate art. That's probably because I actually did just that: appreciate this movie for art.
Not rated because it's 1936. This one is pretty tame, but we also have to deal with 1936 racial politics. There are a few Native American jokes that are regressive. It's done in a context of the era. Nothing outright derogatory, but it isn't exactly comfortable either. There's also implication that it is okay for men to hit women. But the movie is pretty chill. It would probably get a PG today.
DIRECTOR: Gregory La Cava
I might be the last film guy to watch My Man Godfrey. This is one of the big ones. I should have seen this before this moment. I guess I need to return to that old well. It's impossible to be able to watch everything, so some things need to be saved for a later date. I adore William Powell. I haven't rewatched them since I got the box set, but I don't think you could make me happier than a Thin Man marathon. Powell just has this charm about him. It makes absolute sense why Godfrey is a perfect fit for him. He's a character who gets by entirely on his sense of composure.
But My Man Godfrey, despite the fact that it is a glorious romp, has the weirdest message in the world. This is a movie set in the midst of the Great Depression. The Great Depression, for entertainment, was huge. While other businesses and industries were failing, people were flocking to films to take their mind off of their troubles. Often, these movies would appeal to the common man, especially to the have-nots. I'm thinking of Gold Diggers of '33 and Pennies from Heaven. The reversal of fortune in a moment is a fantasy that was played up in these movies. My Man Godfrey is another example of one of these movies. But rather than take a character who is actually destitute, My Man Godfrey almost seems like it has no idea what it means to be poor. Godfrey is referred to as "a forgotten man." He lives in a city dump. But rather than build up the nobility of the forgotten man, he is kind of just a destitute man in name. I'm really beating around the bush, so I'm going to get to the central idea and work backwards. Why do the rich people get a bailout from Godfrey? The movie is a movie where the poor are considered the noble class and the rich are absolute buffoons. I love this. I can see Depression-era audiences loving this as well. But the message of the story is all screwed up. Godfrey, by the end of the film, learns to love the horrible habits of the upper crust. Every member of the family, shy of dad, are horrible human beings. Heck, even his co-star, Carole Lombard's Irene, is oddly sick and terrible. She seems to be the sweetest of the group because she is the one who gets Godfrey his position. But she only does so because she is sexually attracted to Godfrey. She throws temper tantrums when Godfrey rejects her advances. She's actually one of the more annoying female leads in film. She's fine...if she wasn't the love interest of the film. Honestly, the movie sets up Gail Patrick's Cornelia to be the love interest far more. I will get to this in a second. There's this odd shift in the film where Godfrey is almost teaching the family a lesson about how to treat the poor. But they never really learn that lesson. Cornelia at least comes around. She goes from a terrible character to a morally somewhat okay character by the end. They thank Godfrey, but they seem to be the same people they were before. It's a really weird choice. The movie teases me with a comeuppens, but it all works eerily well for everyone.
From an audience perspective during the Depression, you could read the ending two different ways. 1) The poor are infinitely smarter than the rich. If they were given a clear opportunity, they could be rich better than the current rich. 2) Why aren't you rich? See how easy it is? That's a weird choice. I can see what the filmmakers were shooting for. That first message is probably the goal. My Man Godfrey talks about being good to the common man. I love that message so much. But that message is kind of buried under the farce that is the bulk of the film. I can't even seem to understand what an audience would think about that. These people don't really have hardship. Godfrey kind of chooses to live as a homeless man. Being homeless is a vacation to him. I can't be the guy who says this right now, right? I didn't live through the Great Depression. The filmmakers did! The Great Depression was happening to them in that moment. But their understanding of a global epidemic shows off that homelessness is kind of charming. It's about not having to shave. The garbage dump is the cleanest place in the world. I can get behind the narrative that rich are completely ignorant about the humanity of others. While My Man Godfrey is satirical in its interpretation of the upper crust, it rings true. I'm thinking of Tobey Maguire in the real version of Molly's Game right now. But the odd narrative that leads into that is silly. As much as I love Godfrey, it also shows the "pick yourself up by your bootstraps" attitude behind wealth. I'm coming at this from a 21st Century perspective. It's completely unfair for me to say this. I'd also like to remind everyone that I really enjoyed the movie. It's just that this movie is so moralistic. It has the lower class as amiable and the upper class as evil or buffoonish. It's just such an odd moment.
I keep commenting on weak spots in the movie. The movie is really entertaining, but I can't help but have these thoughts. Why is Carol Lombard Irene? That's such an odd casting choice. Irene, out of the sisters, is the one who stands out more. She has kind of a decent soul at times, but she's a really problematic character. She's vapid and selfish. She's never told "no." She actually has the intellect and attitude of a child. She's not Godfrey's equal whatsoever. If anything, she just acts as comic relief. I know that this isn't the first movie to join the protagonist and the comic relief together. But Godfrey goes through much of the film actively disliking Irene. When she barges into his room, he finds it wildly inappropriate. When she kisses him, he's mortified. Again, 21st Century Me is seeing all of this as sexual harassment. She practically hires him because he's sexually attractive. Now, it's not that I necessarily hate Irene. Irene is necessary to the story. But there are two more suitable matches in the film before Irene. Cornelia, as I mentioned before, is an equal to Godfrey. She's an honest threat in the story. She's dynamic and actually ends the story far closer to Godfrey than when the story started. She is filled with regret for her actions and tenderness when Godfrey forgives her. I can see that being a really interesting story. She sees the value of the forgotten person and we could see the power of forgiveness if Godfrey allows himself to be open. There's no way that the two could marry by the end of the story, but the two could start a relationship. Another great choice is Jean Dixon's Molly. Molly, the maid, madly falls in love with Godfrey. I don't love her as a choice mainly because the film doesn't really give her the screentime that she deserves. But in terms of arcs, Molly actually makes a lot of sense. Molly is dismissive of Godrey's abilities from moment one. But Godfrey starts to fix the house. He's able to give her catharsis for all the garbage that she goes through up to that point. She thinks that they are equals and in the trenches together. So when it emerges that he is a rich man, that's a wonderful "just desserts." It's a prince who pretends to be a pauper. Also, Molly genuinely is a good person throughout. They have a far more honest relationship than Irene and Godfrey do, so why not indulge that a bit? It's weird that Molly even loves him if that is never going to be reciprocated. By saying that Irene "wins" Godfrey, it is only approving of her terrible behavior, especially in light of the responsibility that Molly shows throughout the film.
The movie is very good. Everything I'm writing is more of a commentary on the romantic slapstick of the 1930s. This movie wouldn't really work the way it does had these choices been addressed, especially looking at the reality of poverty. I know that Sullivan's Travels did it, but My Man Godfrey has a different tone. This is a far more playful movie. It's a romantic comedy that really likes to wrap its plots up in a nice and neat bow. Regardless, it's a good time.
PG! We went back to PG territory! I can't believe it. Even with face-stretching technology and all the blood and goop that comes out of people's faces, we still get PG. I'm proud of Star Trek. Good for you. Oh, Riker and Troi take a bath together. That probably isn't too PG. Regardless, PG.
DIRECTOR: Jonathan Frakes
I got past the good Star Trek movies. I told myself that I didn't have to watch this one on the nice TV in the living room. I kept delaying watching some of the Star Trek movies until I could watch them on the nice TV. But my wife decided to shop for home decoration stuff and just...disappeared for a while, so I got to watch this one on the nice TV. Star Trek: Insurrection, for die hard Star Trek fans, should be the one that they all talk about. It should be exactly what all the other Star Trek movies aren't. Instead, it kind of just...sucks?
In terms of formula, Star Trek: Insurrection checks all the boxes of things that real Star Trek is all about. There's a line in the movie where Picard remembers that they all used to be explorers. Insurrection is a tale of the Enterprise on a normal day of being Starfleet officers. There's no event going on here. The Borg aren't attacking. Rather, and I'm Texas Sharpshootering here, the Enterprise encounters a planet that has a complex moral structure that needs to be addressed. If ever there was a Next Generation episode, that's it. Star Trek: Insurrection nails the tone of the TV show like I've not seen the movies do. That was always my complaint about the Star Trek films. As watchable as they are, they kind of miss the point about Star Trek. It's about moral situations, not action setpieces. Maybe Insurrection isn't very good because it is too afraid of being what it is, a normal episode. As much as the set and actors look like television carryovers, the film still has an archvillain and Old Man Picard still needs to be the one to fight bad guys. Look at The Next Generation. How many times did Picard have to do stunts? There are times, sure. But his stunts are fairly minor. Between First Contact and Insurrection, he finds himself in the position of manning a rifle and taking down the big bad himself lots of times. Isn't that Worf work? I mean, you go out of your way to bring Worf onto the ship. I'm not even sure what Worf is doing there. Is he part of that weird unnecessary delegation at the beginning of the movie? Worf isn't that guy in the show...ever. The odds that he would find himself on the Enterprise is absolutely silly. But if he's there, he should be used correctly. But as much as fans love Worf, he's not the protagonist. Honestly, making Picard this action hero might completely change his character. Okay, I love being dramatic because I don't think Picard has ever been Picardier than in Insurrection. But it also makes some of his choices silly. Up to this point, he's never been the most hands on in terms of away missions. Kirk was always beaming down to planets and playing slugfest with whatever monster of the week decided to take him on. Picard always let Worf do that. Also, what is the scenario that really plays out when Picard takes the Captain's Yacht down to the planet? Is the Enterprise just supposed to pretend that they accidentally left their captain behind? It's not really a noble gesture if the crew has to claim mutiny or disobedience to save them.
Some of the elements of Insurrection are brilliant. Honestly, if it wasn't for the conspiracy and the bad guy, Star Trek: Insurrection would be an excellent piece of fan service. I have to use "fan service" as a positive term, in this case, because none of Insurrection is really meant for a general audience. It's born and bred Star Trek. You can't just jump in and say "You know what? I get what the Trekkies like about their series." I'm going to gripe about the bad elements pretty soon, so if you can just hold on for a second, I will get there. But there's something really enjoyable about seeing younger versions of these cast members. The movie never really follows through on this concept. I know that there was that one episode where Picard turned into a kid. I'm not talking about that. Picard playing samba is adorable, thinking that adolescent Jean-Luc was into some really dorky stuff under the misinterpretation that kind of music is cool. (Picard never really had edge, did he? I know that he stood up for people and got stabbed in the heart for it, but he was never like Ripper was to Giles, was he?) There are these fun moments like Worf's Klingon puberty that's pretty entertaining. Before I go deeper, Worf's puberty really could have really embraced the concept. I'm thinking of Spock's pon farr and how intense that was. It's weird to think that Klingons had it easier than Vulcans. The movie kept on telling us that Klingons had a pretty intense puberty, but we just got some really minor stuff happening in the movie. This kind of leads to Riker and Troi being "younger." With Frakes behind the director's chair, seeing Riker always get this charming version of himself is odd. Both movies where Frakes is in charge, he never really has to have this gravitas about him. It actually kind of makes him look like a perv in this one. He's very aggressive with Troi, with whom he had a relationship. There's a justification that I can make about his actions which is kind of nonsense. The entire movie is about choices that we would have made when we were younger. It's odd, because intellectually, everyone is still the same. Geordi isn't flying off the handle. Picard just likes his dumb samba music. But Riker is aggressively going after Troi. Troi massages his neck and he just welcomes himself back into her life. I have to believe that the producers of the films knew that Nemesis was going to be the last film and that they wanted to give some kind of resolution to the whole Riker / Troi thing. It's actually weird to think that Worf had a thing with Troi as well. Okay, I need to stop because I'm really dancing around the big moment that I enjoy. I love Geordi's vision. It's a small moment in the film and it probably could have been done better. But the concept of Geordi as blind is such a heavy thing in the show that the story never really tried to fix. (Unless I'm forgetting.) Having this be an unexpected element to this aging story is absolutely perfect. Geordi is the litmus test for what this Federation conspiracy would offer. It is secretly what he has always wanted. (It's odd to think that Geordi is the character that fights for Data's dream, but never really pursues his own.) It's a nice touch.
But then that leaves the rest of the film. I don't hate the Data learning to be a child element. It feels very episodic for Data, like you would see on an episode. But like episodes, there really is no vibe that this is helping him progress as a character. I don't know why the films are obsessed with corrupting the Federation. We first see it in my favorite Star Trek, The Undiscovered Country. It's a small part of that and it really grounds the Federation. But Insurrection points to this mass corruption. It's not individuals who are at fault. It's the Federation as a whole. Also, this isn't something that should be able to be undone. The Federation were violating the Prime Directive. I know that they didn't think of it that way. But this wasn't Admiral Dougherty and his secret cabal. He tells Picard that this is something that all of the higher ups were aware of. The big moment in the story is whether or not to stick with the Federation or mutiny against a greater evil. There has to be a consequence for this action. There should be no more Star Trek after this moment. When that door is opened, there needs to be...something. Instead, the movie really packs it all back into the status quo after this. Picard and the crew of the Enterprise are branded good guys for stopping Dougherty and Ru'afo. That's...not what the film told me. The Federation was going to investigate this? They were going to investigate...themselves? This also kind of leads into a clunky theme / moral of the story. Star Trek, at its best, is a morality tale. Often, the episodes acted as allegories for issues going on at the time. We saw this pretty clearly during the Roddenberry eras of Star Trek. Tackling civil rights was priority one. However, later Star Trek, Insurrection in particular, does some pretty safe moralizing. Instead of saying anything dangerous or controversial, the film moralizes about forced migration. I acknowledge that the message that they are espousing is an important one. What America did to the Native Americans was a crime and one of many stains on our records. But what is this movie encouraging us to do with this information? Are we supposed to fight against a forced migration happening in 1998? It's a feel good piece about how we are better than we used to be. That's not exactly challenging. It's just feel goodery.
I don't really care about the bad guys in this movie. The Baku (I think I got the right group) are really boring aliens. Like, really boring. The Baku and the Sona being the same culture is even worse. It doesn't really change the story that much. If anything, it makes the Sona look kind of bad. They don't really miss their children. They don't recognize them when they get back. It is also really weird that everyone got together and wanted to plan a war against the Sona as revenge. (I really apologize if I got the races wrong. I don't feel like looking it up and I'm writing against the clock.) It's a bizarre choice. The movie really lacks the complexity of a lot of the other Star Trek films, so it almost injects these moments that really no one cares about. But this also brings me to the Sona. The Sona are an intriguing people to Picard. He falls in love with Donna Murphy's Anij, but this also has the "girl-of-the-film" feel to it. Anij, despite potentially being the love of Picard's life, has very little in common with him. I know, Picard once lived a whole other life as a farmer with a recorder and the Sona may call back to that simple lifestyle. But Riker and Troi rekindled their relationships. Why is Crusher so ignored in this film? I honestly feel bad for Gates McFadden. A lot of the Enterprise crew has some kind of subplot that's pretty satisfying. Yeah, Crusher has one of the funnier lines in the movie, but she almost had a relationship with Picard. If the movie went out of their way to fan service Riker and Troi, why not do the same for Picard and Crusher? It's staring them in the face and we're all supposed to ignore it. It's the same thing with Carol Marcus v. Antonia. What it does for Picard is allow him to interact with Anij and bring in these ho-hum pretty visuals. Magic woman is fun to play around with and adds to the mystical aesthetic of this planet. Anij might represent a lot of what is wrong with this movie. This has nothing to do with Donna Murphy. It actually doesn't have a lot to do with her character. But Anij is supposed to be something mystical. She has an insight into reality that intrigues and mystifies Picard. This whole planet is kind of supposed to be Pandora from Avatar. (I hated Avatar...kind of.) It is supposed to be lush and rich and deep with secrets and the OH-MY-GOSH! Insurrection is just another Ferngully / Last Samurai / Dances with Wolves / Avatar. It is supposed to be this rich culture that is being exploited and that the people who were once members of the invading party have to change sides. BOO! Oh, I hate this movie more than ever now. I knew that there was something holding me back from liking this movie.
I would rewrite everything. I can't stand this storyline. It's been done too many times. I can't stand the White Savior rebellion story. It's sooooooo boring. It's been done and it's not even done well this time. Oh man, I take it back. Insurrection is not even slightly okay. I even want to like the Gilbert & Sullivan stuff. The only reason I liked this movie is because it had characters I liked in it. I can't believe that I had an almost therapy experience with this movie. Someone couldn't have told me that it was just Avatar again? Geez Louise. I'm going to watch this movie again next decade or something. But man alive, this movie is undercooked. My entire last paragraph was about how the movie just takes shortcuts and feels cheap, but that's because it is cheap. It is a bad version of a bad movie. What does that say? Man, and now I have to go into Nemesis, my least favorite Star Trek film. Gah...
Rated R because of very graphic sexual content occasionally bordering on pornographic. Yeah, I don't consider David Lynch's attitude towards sex healthy. I don't think it's ever part of the story, nor do I think it is a celebration of a relationship. I often think that he tries to think of erotic things and puts those things in his movies. Also, the language is over the top and there's violence with some mild blood. R.
DIRECTOR: David Lynch
If you know me in real life or if you've been a hardcore follower of this blog (I'd like to imagine that there are those out there who only know me through this blog), you should know that I'm not the biggest fan of David Lynch. While Googling art for above, the first website that came back for "Mulholland Drive" was "Is Mulholland Drive" the best film of the 21st Century?" I can't. Guys, I can't. I get it. Many people think he's a genius. I honestly don't. I think that he has a voice and an audience, but in no sense of the word could I consider Mulholland Drive to be the best film of any decade, century, or year. (I know, I should progress chronologically. Hitting backspace would actually be faster than typing any of this.) I've seen Mulholland Drive before. I bought it from Half-Price Books on Criterion for $10. I thought that, worse comes to worst, I at least added to the Criterion Collection I own. Watching it again...geez.
I want to like David Lynch. I think it is possible to love someone you don't necessarily get. Understanding an auteur is only an element to appreciation. I don't necessarily have the most fun with Ozu movies, but I really respect the heck out of Ozu. Tom Stoppard often breaks my brain open and I leave completely befuddled to what I experienced. I can keep going on with this list. David Lynch, and I'm really sorry to say this to all the MANY fans that he has, makes the most infuriatingly annoying films. Please, understand, this is subjective. I'm never going to change my mind. Do you know why? I WANT TO CHANGE MY MIND! I keep coming back to his films and his works and I want to find a degree of appreciation. But I don't have that. I watch these movies and they just drive me up the wall. Part of that is that he wants me to feel that way. I'm not a moron. Part of the whole experience is the frustration with what's going on screen. But I would like to compare David Lynch to poetry. (See, I can be complimentary!) I've now taken a lot of poetry classes. The best poetry doesn't spoonfeed. It doesn't wear its themes on its sleeve. A dedicated reader can go back and dissect it. Sometimes there's an objective reading of the work; sometimes there isn't. But the reader should be able to look at it and look at it and find some meaning. That meaning may completely stray from the original work's intention. That happens a lot actually. The creator loses control over creation at a certain point. But there has to be something there. There are a lot of bad poems that are weird just to be weird. Look how shocking and different my poem is. Yeah, David Lynch has meaning, but that meaning never has any value to me. Dreams are weird. I have mentioned this in everything that I've done with David Lynch and it drives me nuts.
Honestly, Mulholland Drive is simply an attempt to revisit the tonal weirdness and darkness of Twin Peaks. I didn't hate Wild at Heart because it was still very Lynch-y, but it wasn't just another Twin Peaks. BIG SPOILER: Mulholland Drive is left intentionally cryptic. David Lynch swears that this movie has a definitive answer and that no one has stumbled upon it. I think this is a lie. Okay, I'm going to backpedal that. I think it is only a partial truth. I think that David Lynch has a logical understanding of everything that is happening in the film, but because so much of the movie is a mislead, the minutiae of the film is completely overlooked. I'm going to go against my own better instincts and say that making a murder mystery without a clear ending is a cool and gutsy move. Other directors probably couldn't get away with it, but that's okay. If I made a mystery and didn't provide a meaningful resolution, I would be lambasted. But the idea is kind of cool. But Lynch is trying to distance his audience with this film. He provides all of these details that are ultimately vapid. There are scenes that just waste time. We never really get to know real characters. I suppose that Betty has a bit of a character, but we also probably know that none of the things we're seeing with Betty are really true. If Lynch is commenting on the fact that everything in reality is a show and a lie, I don't think that really comes across. A thing that really bothers me about Lynch is that his movies often don't look or feel that great. He often incorporates this style of acting that reminds me of community theatre. It has to be intentional, because we know that Naomi Watts is actually a talented actress. Heck, there's even a scene where she shows off that she's a very talented actress. But these characters are always left at arm's length. We can't exactly bond with these characters because there's no emotional truth behind anything that we really see. Instead, we go into the realm of stylized weirdness. It's the log lady, only done for an entire film. I sound like I'm tearing into Lynch pretty hard right now, but I'm so nervous to write this next thing.
I think that David Lynch hides behind his style. I kind of have the same vibe when it comes to Tim Burton. David Lynch's filmmaking style is a cover for any actual vulnerability. One of the things that really drives me nuts is when I can say that I could do the same thing without being called a genius. Yeah, Jackson Pollock probably is actually a genius. I get that. I know that format shouldn't matter. But David Lynch has never really proven to me that he can get by without covering his film with gimmicks. It always feels like weirdness for weirdness sake. Mulholland Drive is more tame than something like Inland Empire, but they both cover up anything that would be challenging with odd choices. One of the more frustrating scenes in the film is when Justin Theroux's Adam is in a meeting with the mobsters. The way this scene is shot looks bad. It is criminally boring. We don't really have any real actions. It's a 2-shot that doesn't really treat the scene like the other person is in the room. Honestly, these scenes felt like they were shot on separate days. Similarly, the costume design looks like it was done on a shoestring budget. People look like they dressed themselves. Mobsters and bad guys wore sunglasses and suits. There's got to be something way more fun than that. The movie is just rife with things that I consider lazy. When the movie gets a little bit mundane, Lynch throws something weird into the movie. In my head, the works of David Lynch are "The Emperor's New Clothes." Everyone says that the movie is a work of art and a work of genius so everyone feels guilty when they say that the movie is lacking. It's kind of an ad hominem attack. "You don't like David Lynch because you don't get him." I don't. I try and I try. But I just see weirdness for weirdness sake.
I'm not saying Mulholland Drive doesn't have elements of genius in it. The moments that are shot well are really shot well. If I had to give points for the effectiveness of the weirdness, Mulholland Drive might be my favorite of his films. There's a lot of motifs that we saw in Twin Peaks. Again, I didn't care for Twin Peaks. I can't finish The Return because it was too much. But the little people running around at the end. It was cool looking, even though it didn't really make sense to me. I just find myself getting really mad at these films. Part of the thing about surrealism is that it has to feel earnest and vulnerable. I know I can't really defend this, but I see stuff like Samuel Beckett and I really get into it. I see that there's something there. But the Rita stuff and the guy at the diner stuff don't really feel like there's something important there. I don't see Lynch doing anything except satirizing his circle of influence in Hollywood. What is he saying about the human condition with his weirdness? I also don't like the fact that he made Rita and Betty aggressively sexual. If this intense sexuality was only in Mulholland Drive, I might backtrack this a bit. But this really feels icky. Like, I think that David Lynch is probably turned on by stuff like this and we have to sit there and pretend that this is an important part of the story. Like, the scene where Betty is crying on the couch is wholly unnecessary. I'm also not chalking this up to the American attitude towards sex. When we get over-the-top violent movies, there tends to be a wink at the camera. As much as I don't like John Waters, I think he manages to do the same wink at the camera with his sexuality. David Lynch doesn't really do that. He films his scenes as though those scenes are vital to the tone. But they are really gross. It's the darker side of sexuality and he relishes in it. I know that this may seem like kink shaming, but I'm okay with that. It's exploitative and I really don't like it.
In terms of cinematography, at times the movie is gorgeous. Actually, I'm going to lump in the sound as well. Angelo Badalamenti is Lynch's musician of choice. I find Badamenti boring, but his score works here. But the rest of his movie really feels like a student film. I don't love stuff like this. I acknowledge that a lot of this is on me. But I've given the biggest shake to David Lynch and I continue to despise his movies. I really thought that I would enjoy Mulholland Drive more, knowing that the end was ambiguous. But nope. The movie doesn't do anything for me. I can't believe that this is one of the best movies of the 21st Century. People are allowed to like weird stuff. In fact, I prefer people liking weird stuff instead of boring stuff. But saying David Lynch has made a perfect film? Come on. I genuinely believe that people like David Lynch because it makes them feel deep.
PG, because live action films actually used to be PG. I know, it's 1987, but PG matches this film pretty closely. Sure, there's death in it. There's some kinda death as well. There's violence. I can't think of anything overly sexual in the film. It may have some regressive politics, but that's more on 1987 than anything else. This is a very well-deserved PG rating.
DIRECTOR: Rob Reiner
There's an interesting thing that happens when you aren't obsessed with a movie that everyone adores. I keep wanting to love this movie. I don't deny that it's a good movie. It makes me laugh from time to time. It's pretty fun. But I never really got on The Princess Bride train. I know that it is universally adored, but I don't necessarily get it. As a member of many many fandoms, I think I kind of get what it means to be on the outside of something that you think is pretty special. The Princess Bride is a movie that I showed my film club because it's in that pile of modern classics that is dying off. But in terms of being an objectively amazing movie, I think it's just pretty good. (I'm going to get torn apart for this, aren't I?)
I don't think I've seen a movie that has been so affected by being dated. I hope I can say this without eliciting too much scorn, but that soundtrack is rough. I mean, geez Louise, that soundtrack drives me bananas. I can think of less than impressive soundtracks, but The Princess Bride might be the one film where the soundtrack actually affects my like or dislike of a movie. I know it was 1987. I should be man enough to forgive something like the cocaine-fueled nightmare of the late '80s. But synthesizing this score was the worst choice I've seen in a film, like ever. I think that the synthesizer was a choice. I'm sure that someone thought it would be rad to be cutting edge and try the newest Casio settings. But I also have the vibe that the studio might not have believed in The Princess Bride. Despite the fact that it is a successful film, it also is kind of a cheap looking film. So many scenes look like they are a built set. Nothing in the film really looks real. Rob Reiner is no dummy. He's a talented filmmaker who, for the most part, knows what he is doing. He's got a sense of comic timing and he knows his pacing. But there are a lot of scenes that look nowhere near film quality. These are great scenes. But it all feels like watching a play. I would adore having an artistic analysis for why everything looks this way. For all I know, Fred Savage lacks the historical accuracy to imagine how things look like correctly, so it has to look pretty goofy. I don't get that vibe at all. I get the vibe that either A) attention to detail really didn't matter. It's a comedy. Or B) the studio didn't trust a fantasy movie to this guy and they shortchanged him every time they got a chance. The only thing that I don't really like about this movie is the actual filmmaking. It's an ugly film. I love me some old timey Doctor Who, but I also know that it isn't objectively great because it looks like garbage a lot of the time.
But in terms of fun, it's pretty good. The structure of the film is what mostly makes it work. Yeah, we all acknowledge that Grandpa probably didn't have time to read his grandson a whole novel. Also, it's really weird that he skips pages. I can't be the only one that is horrified by that idea. Regardless, having Fred Savage and his grandpa interrupt the film is the perfect way to set the tone. (Why does he have a Santa Claus up in his room? Even if it is Christmas, which I don't think it is, who decorates their kids' bedroom?) Fred Savage as the avatar for the audience establishes the intended audience. Peter Falk is fantastic. Yeah, I never got into Columbo. I'm 36, not 80. (That being said, I have a student who is obsessed with Columbo graduating this year.) Shifting from this world to the world of Westley oddly enough gives the film a Neverending Story quality. The actions of Fred Savage and his grandfather never affect the world of the story, but the interruptions make it feel like the actors are put on pause. There's the scene where Buttercup is about to be eaten by the eel. While this is simply rewound to the moment that was interrupted, it feels like Robin Wright Penn is genuinely annoyed to have to perform the scene again. This is actually a testament to the importance of good editing. The film never actually states that the characters inside of the book are actors, but the movie reminds us that we are in that movie. Perhaps The Princess Bride resonates with so many people is the fact that it is one of the earlier films to play around with the meta narrative. By having Peter Falk read the book to Fred Savage, in a way, it is reminding us about the entire concept of storytelling. The film is a commentary on storytelling, so it is marvelously appropriate in that way. Their interruptions are often accompanied by Savage commenting on tropes and archetypes. He doesn't realize this, of course. He's just the least sick kid I've seen listening to a story that his grandpa is reading to him. But think about it. Savage's kid knows the beats of the fantasy tale. Every time that there is a subversion of expectations, he comments on it. It actually stops us from getting too invested in the primary narrative. Yeah, the eel scene can be a little scary, but the film doesn't really let us feel the fear in that sequence. It's because that tension is released when we are reminded that this is just a story. Seeing the book with many, many pages left is a stark reminder that Grandpa probably won't be reading this kid a monstrous story about a protagonist who is killed in the first hour of the movie. These breaks are timed idyllically. Every time the story gets too heavy or lingers in the fantasy world, we are pulled back to the real world of the kid and grandpa. A similar concept exists in Goldman's novel. I didn't get too far in that, but it does.
Now this all brings me to an even greater question: Am I supposed to watch this movie as a love story? If the fourth wall is constantly being broken and the movie is commenting on adventure fantasy tropes, is the romance real? I'm not saying that people shouldn't love the Buttercup and Westley shipping. I think it is a fine sentiment to make, but I don't think that I'm supposed to leave the film swooning for their relationship. I want to say that the fans turned the movie into a love story. The Princess Bride really makes me question what a love story actually is. By all intents and purposes, the movie really makes some statements about love. When asked from almost death what his motivations are, Westley replies "True Love." (Nerds, feel free to finish the quote.) Buttercup would rather die than face a world without her love. But they rarely are together. In fact, despite that the movie stresses that there has rarely been a couple as devoted and in love as these two characters, we don't actually know them as a couple. There's something brutally artificial about their relationship. This isn't a fault. This all sounds like I'm attacking the love aspect of the film. But the romance is almost artificial by choice. Because this relationship is meant to be a once in a generation thing, there's no way to actually present that accurately. (Okay, I'm taking broad strokes. There are characters that I ship way too hard, so I'm kind of shooting myself in the foot.) But honestly, look at that movie. How many scenes are Westley and Buttercup in together? They may have had a handful of days on set together. It's kind of ridiculous.
You know the really weird element of the movie? I'm not even saying it is a bad thing, but the pacing of the movie is really weird. It's not bad at all. I don't mind it. But this film is deceptively simple. There's a subplot about staging a war, but I didn't even think about that storyline until this most recent watch. Really, the movie is about exposition involving Westley's "death". Then Buttercup is kidnapped and a chunk of the movie is Westley getting her back. Then she's immediately returned to Humperdink and Westley has to get her back again. Yeah, an oversimplification, but not by much. I don't care. It almost feels like Rob Reiner is just following his own rules for filmmaking with this one. Most of the movie turned out pretty good, so we ignore the oddball choices in storytelling. I enjoy the movie. I don't think I'll ever get the obsession, but it is pretty good.
Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.
Mr. H has watched an upsetting amount of movies. They bring him a level of joy that few things have achieved.